News_You_Can_Use_graphic_(2).pngWe had years of Larry Hogan's ambushes -- waiting till the last minute to veto bills from his very Dem General Assembly, giving them minimum opportunity to override until the following year's sessions. We are getting used, now, to a Governor and Assembly that are much more in sync. Wes Moore has (as you see below) rumbled through a big bunch of bills with a fast pen. What it will take to make him down-check a bill is not emerging in a hurry. He has embraced his housing package. Bills are on the way to him -- or have already been signed -- that may have some unpleasant aspects (like the refusal to take the "renewable" label off the choke-inducing Baltimore trash incinerator, or the last-minute sabotage of more general building requirements that would reduce the carbon hit from new buildings). Then there's the youth crime bill with all the panicky responses to carjacking. We'll wait and see if remedies are proposed. Meanwhile, check out what's getting signed, what other states are doing better (or worse) than we are in Maryland,  and keep up with the Feds with People's Action reporting and analysis. It's News You Can Use.



MOORE SIGNS NEARLY 300 BILLS INTO LAW: Some 286 bills became law Thursday after Gov. Wes Moore and legislative leaders gave their final stamp of approval. Legislation signed into law included the governor’s housing package and some of House Speaker Adrienne Jones’ “Decency Agenda” – part of which includes the Freedom to Read Act, which prevents book bans in libraries. WBAL TV/NBC

Gov. Moore signed three housing bills dedicated to making Maryland more affordable. The bills address concentrated poverty in Maryland’s marginalized communities, reduce instability in Maryland’s housing supply and affordability, and enhance rights for Maryland renters, according to the governor’s office. WBFF (FOX)

 Moore signed a major bill into law that allows local jurisdictions in Maryland to impose higher property tax rates on structures and lots that are vacant and abandoned. Baltimore City Councilmember Odette Ramos says this is a huge step toward tackling the vacant housing issue in the city. Ramos says this now paves the way for Baltimore City leaders to introduce a vacant property tax in the city that will hopefully force the owners of the city's more than 13,000 vacant homes to either redevelop them or hand them over to the city. WJZ

Decency Agenda, Affordable Housing Package Among Bills Signed Into Law: During the Assembly session, House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones D-Baltimore presented a “decency agenda,” a package of five bills that sought to eradicate discrimination and election misinformation, provide leadership training for school officials, and ensure diverse books and other materials are available for everyone. Those bills were among the 261 that Gov. Wes Moore (D) signed into law on Thursday. Maryland Matters and Stateline Daily

Our allies at the Maryland Legislative Coalition had a tally of progressive wins here

Legislators Want to Know How to Improve Health Access – including in Maryland’s Medicaid program --  and the state health department has a flurry of studies to complete this year to oblige the Assembly. “Alyssa L. Brown, director of the health department’s Office of Innovation, Research and Development, said that the department has 13 new reports and studies to conduct, many which have to be finished before the end of the year.” Studies of obesity medication, various increases in dental benefits, disabled workers’ ability to keep working without losing Medicaid, more support for prosthetics and other health access issues will keep health researchers hustling before the newly elected (or re-elected) Assembly convenes next year. Some approaches began as extension of current benefits but were converted to studies as the session concluded. Maryland Matters via Maryland Reporter.
NOTE one of the studies mandated from Maryland’s 2023 session
prompted the health department to project how much it would cost the state to provide state-funded health care coverage to Maryland’s undocumented population, resulting in some projections as high as $1 billion over a five-year period for the state. Stateline Daily reports that Washington [state’s] immigrant population is jumping at the chance to apply for health insurance as coverage expands for those without a federally recognized immigration status. At least 16,000 people are on track to be covered by the state’s upcoming Medicaid expansion for immigrants, the Washington State Standard reports.”


Lobbyist Corps Growing: The top 10 highest earning lobbyists in the state earned slightly more as a group in the last year but saw their share of compensation decrease as the size of the state’s lobbying corps surpassed pre-pandemic levels. Nearly 200 lobbyists reported earnings of at least $50,000. That is up from 180 the year before. Maryland Matters via Maryland Reporter. Pluribus reported, jaw dropped, that “Timothy Perry, the top-grossing lobbyist in Annapolis, made $3.9 million. Maryland lobbyists took in a record $70 million to influence the legislature last year.”

Maryland Scientists Search Space to Understand Oceans: To better understand the ocean surface, NASA scientists went to the stars. The Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem satellite launched into orbit on Feb. 8 on a quest to better understand the microscopic content of Earth’s atmosphere and oceans. Two Maryland teams and a team from the Netherlands Institute for Space Research and Airbus Netherlands B.V., each worked on one of the three instruments on the satellite.  Capital News Service/

New Data Finds Immigrants Power Maryland Workforce: New data shows that Maryland has a larger immigrant labor force than the U.S. average. About 21% of workers in the state are foreign-born compared to a 17% nationwide average. Those foreign workers are also fueling the state’s meager 2 percent labor force growth, as they are more likely to participate in the labor force than natural born Marylanders. The state has a 2.4% unemployment rate and has approximately three job openings available for every worker, one of the highest ratios in the nation. WYPR-FM.

Moore Sets Up Enviro Literacy Program: Gov. Wes Moore issued an executive order Monday establishing an environmental literacy program in an effort to empower Maryland youth to conserve and restore the state’s natural resources in the face of climate change. Baltimore Sun.



Anxiety Over Squatters, Fueled by Tiktok, Inspires A Wave of Legislation – state officials respond to public’s fears about people refusing to leave vacant homes after occupying them. “Opponents of the bills call the trend a ‘manufactured crisis’ that could affect legitimate tenant protections. So far, lawmakers in at least 10 states have floated legislation this year that would address squatting by revoking tenancy rights, making it easier for police to remove squatters or making squatting a criminal offense. Several have quickly enacted new laws... So far, Florida and West Virginia have enacted laws that classify squatting as a criminal act” Stateline Daily [Pluribus also blames THAT cable news outfit: Fox News has been hyping a purported epidemic of squatting incidents around the country. Expect more bills like this one (Alabama’s) to pop up]

Southern Govs Put Pressure on Union Drives -- Republican officials are gearing up for more fights over unionization efforts at auto plants after a historic vote in Tennessee last week. Republican officials are gearing up for more fights over unionization efforts at auto plants after a historic vote in Tennessee last week. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a law Monday that bars companies that get big tax incentives from the state for building mega-projects, such as auto factories, from voluntarily recognizing unions without a secret ballot. Alabama lawmakers followed suit later in the week, approving a similar measure there. The bills are based on a Tennessee law passed last year, which the conservative group the American Legislative Exchange Council has been promoting. Route Fifty

 EDUCATION: The Ohio Senate has approved legislation Requiring School Districts To Create A Cell Phone Policy For Students, emphasizing that phones should be used as little as possible during the school day. Gov. Mike DeWine (R) asked legislators to pass a bill requiring the Department of Education and Workforce to adopt a model phone policy. (Ohio Capital Journal) via Pluribus

A Range of Emerging Fiscal Risks Could Disrupt State Budgets -- Tomorrow’s demographic, environmental, and technological trends require planning and action today, long-term budget experts say.  “Baby Boomers continue to age out of the workforce, and the scale of this exit is unlikely to be matched with new workers because of declines in fertility and international migration.” A range of other emerging fiscal risks could disrupt state budgets, such as increasing heat waves due to climate change causing lagging productivity and even out-migration, in addition to catastrophic storms and wildfires. And technological changes can bring uneven patterns of work and/or consumption, further impacting state budgets and revenue Route Fifty


We Can’t Exist Without Child Care’: Rural Towns Use State Funding To Open Local Centers.

In South Dakota, 13 communities were awarded a child care grant from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development last month. In total, the grants, using federal funds, are infusing over $3.7 million into helping communities find collaborative, innovative solutions to address child care needs across South Dakota.” Rural towns and their residents wonder out loud how they can keep their dwindling populations with the collapse of private child care service there. Route Fifty




Conservation efforts successfully reduce biodiversity loss, a new study showed. The journal Science looked at 665 trials going back 130 years, and found that they were often successful: A management plan in the Congo Basin reduced deforestation by 74%, and captive breeding helped restore Chinook salmon in Idaho rivers, for instance. More recent efforts tended to be more effective than older ones. The authors said the study was a “ray of hope” that showed conservation efforts were often “not just a little bit better than doing nothing at all, but many times greater.” One scientist told the BBC that while such efforts worked, they were “not being funded at a sufficient scale to actually start to reverse global declines in biodiversity.” Semafor Flagship – some links may be paywalled.

 Now They Tell Us: The share of the US’ GDP controlled by the 400 richest Americans is 17%, up from 2% in 1982. Income inequality has worsened too: The country’s Gini coefficient — an index of income inequality — has risen steadily over the past five decades, reaching levels not seen since the 1940s.

This week’s report on the federal angle from People’s Action federal affairs director Megan E:

The House and Senate are back in session this week for a four week session. The House will vote on a resolution that includes an expansive definition of antisemitism on college campuses that threatens to further curtail the speech of peace and Palestinian liberation activists. 

Unitedhealth Group CEO “Sir” Andrew Witty will testify in front of the Senate Finance Committee hearing on Wednesday and People’s Action’s Care Over Cost campaign will be there to demand that he stop denying our claims. Please sign and share our petition and watch for opportunities to lift up on social media. 

From Politico: “Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in depth about the ongoing negotiations for a hostage release and cease-fire deal... He continued to urge a pause in the Israel-Hamas war and warn against a major ground invasion of Rafah. Hamas is sending reps to Egypt today for talks — and one top official in the group told Agence France-Presse that “the atmosphere is positive” for the proposed agreement “unless there are new obstacles from the Israeli side.” One new wrinkle: Israel now thinks that the International Criminal Court is working on potential charges for Israeli officials — perhaps including Netanyahu — and Hamas leaders over the war, NYT’s Ronen Bergman and Patrick Kingsley report. That prospect is partially affecting Israel’s decision-making.”


Average US Taxpayer Contributed More to Militarism Than Medicare in 2023: Report | Common Dreams

"This year $5,109 of the average American's taxpayer dollars went to fund the military and its support systems," said the co-author of a new analysis.

Check out Shawn Fain’s spee ch at the Labor Notes conference, “the Working Class is the Arsenal of Democracy: We win by giving working-class people the tools, the inspiration, and the courage to stand up for themselves.”  It’s very in-line with People’s Action’s dual priorities of the Organizing Revival and Beating Back Authoritarianism! 

Congratulations to Congresswoman Summer Lee and PA United PAC for their resounding victory in Lee’s primary last week! 

AND: Political scientist Robert Kagan is no leftist, but if you want chapter and verse about how authoritarianism could re-enter our lives this November, check this WaPo op-ed.

Issue Update: Climate

Rolling coal: Biden’s newest climate rule takes an aggressive swing at power plants. The EPA regulation comes amid the president’s continued struggles to assuage unhappiness among young, climate-minded voters. “The final rules EPA unveiled on Thursday will require the nation’s dwindling fleet of about 200 coal-fired power plants to install carbon capture technology if they plan to continue operating past 2039. But it makes a few concessions to ease the transition for power companies — for example… operators of coal plants would have until 2032 to install carbon capture, two years later than the agency had originally proposed. [Note that the Wall Street Journal reports that the coal plants are likely to be shut down due to high cost of the carbon capture implementation]

The EPA’s package of regulations also includes more stringent requirements on mercury emissions from burning coal, as well as reductions in the pollutants discharged through coal plants’ wastewater. And the agency is seeking additional cleanups of coal ash, a toxic waste byproduct of burning coal that is typically stored in ponds or buried. Completing those four rules together is intended to give the power sector a broad view of the regulatory costs it will face from continuing to burn coal. Already, coal’s share of U.S. electricity production has plummeted during the past two decades, to about 16 percent from more than half.  West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, lambasted the rule as “the illegal Clean Power Plan 2.0,” referring to a major Obama-era regulation that the Supreme Court struck down two years ago.”


New clean power rules force utilities to take clean energy seriously

EPA’s "clean up or close" rules for coal and gas plants face strong pushback. But backers say clean power, batteries, and grid tech are ready to take over.


Issue Update: Healthcare

A Doctor at Cigna Said Her Bosses Pressured Her to Review Patients’ Cases Too Quickly. Cigna threatened to fire her. Cigna tracks every minute that its staff doctors spend deciding whether to pay for health care. Dr. Debby Day said her bosses cared more about being fast than being right: “Deny, deny, deny. That’s how you hit your numbers,” Day said.


Issue Update: Housing

The Town at the Center of a Supreme Court Battle Over Homelessness

A lawsuit by a group of homeless residents of a small Oregon town could reshape the way cities across the country deal with homelessness.

Podcast | The Supreme Court Takes Up Homelessness

Can cities make it illegal to live on the streets?


Issue Update: Immigration

Far-right Republican extremists appear to be winning the narrative war on immigration. From Politico: “But the country really has shifted to the right in its views on immigration, as a new Axios survey makes clear. Stef Kight reports that among Democrats, a majority say there’s a crisis at the border, one-quarter think migrants disproportionately bring drugs and commit crimes (which is not accurate), 30 percent are open to ending birthright citizenship, and 42 percent want mass deportations. On the flip side: Support for Dreamers is still high, and even half of Republicans want more legal pathways for immigration.”


Issue Update: Democracy

The Supreme Court effectively abolishes the right to mass protest in three US states

It is no longer safe to organize a protest in Louisiana, Mississippi, or Texas.

More than 500 people have been arrested at pro-Palestinian protests at colleges

Students and others are protesting Israel's war against Hamas in Gaza and, in some cases, their school's investments in Israel. Presidents at several schools face calls to resign amid the protests.

woody woodruff


M.A. and Ph.d. from University of Maryland Merrill College of Journalism, would-be radical, sci-fi fan... retired to a life of keyboard radicalism...